Hello you. It’s been a hectic couple of weeks here at Fog Towers, settling into both the new year and a prolonged bout of ‘flu’ that has rather hampered productivity since that bumper period during the festive season, when, as you’ll recall, I turned my parent’s dining room table into a sound laboratory. However, I’m fighting fit again now and working on new projects, details of which will hopefully be revealed in the coming weeks. In the meantime, however, I’m very excited to announce that A Creak In Time, the experimental film directed by Steven McInerney and with an original score by Howlround has made the official selection for 47th International Film Festival Rotterdam! Details of screenings can be found here and you can still purchase a copy of the soundtrack on heavyweight vinyl soundtrack (with complimentary streaming and download links) on the website of Steve’s Psyché Tropes label. I think I can safely say it’s the most beautiful project I’ve ever been involved with…
In other news, I was planning to present my annual review of the previous year on these pages at the beginning of the month, but was prevented from doing so by the onset of this aforementioned spiteful strain of lurgy that I’ve been wrestling with. I recognise it’s rather late to be doing it now that we’re firmly into 2018, but I’m also a real stickler for tradition (or if you prefer ‘doing the same thing over and over again until being asked to stop’); so I decided I’d just pick 10 of my favourite moments at random below, and leave it at that. Here, then, in no particularly order:
1. The Delaware Road at Kelvedon Hatch ‘Secret’ Nuclear Bunker:
Where to even start with this one? This take-over of a genuine nuclear bunker by the many-headed beast that is the Delaware Road collective was surely the most stunning evening of the year in terms of sheer scale and ambition, not to mention venue. Howlround’s set in the Telex Room (together with mannequin tape restrainers) earned a nod of approval from the legend that is Steve Davis! A credit to both the slightly disturbed imagination of Buried Treasure Records lynchpin Alan Gubby and the distinctly disturbing presence of the headmasterly Dolly Dolly, acting as a sort-of Churchill-channelling master of ceremonies. Hoping for more of the same in 2018.
2. Further at The Portico Gallery:
Performing the first ever live soundtrack to A Creak In Time</em>, alongside DJ sets from Jim and Julian of Ghost Box, plus hosts DJ Food and Peter Williams. With projections and film loops covering every single inch of the venue, Further was second only to the Delaware Road in terms of sheer visual spectacle – and they didn’t have a Nuclear Bunker to play with! Again, more in 2018, please!
3. Deliaphonic at Coventry Cathedral:
A celebration of the life and work of Radiophonic pioneer Delia Derbyshire on what would have been her 80th birthday, in the hallowed surroundings of Coventry’s magnificent Cathedral. Howlround performed alongside the legendary Peter Zinovieff, Pete Kember of Sonic Boom, Hannah Peel, Jonny Trunk and the ever-affable Jerry Dammers. A worthy tribute to a remarkable life – and yet another fantastic venue to tick off the list!
5. Yes, Damage!:
A second commission from White Noise was this ‘mixtape’ inspired by a cassette recording of London-based pirate radio station ‘Pressure FM’ that I played to death as a teenager. Now badly deteriorated through years of repeated listening and a transmitter that was pretty shaky in the first place, fragments of the recording were looped and layered through the tape machines in an attempt to join the dots between the hardcore and jungle of my youth and the abstract musique concréte-inspired work of my years as a ‘mature’ adult. You can read more about the project in Helen Frosi’s article on the White Noise website.
6. A Can Of Worms:
Helping to celebrate the 100th release of The Tapeworm in fine style with Howlround contributing to the bumper 34-track cassette and an evening of live performances at Iklectik, both of which marked the label’s centenary. I used the occasion to officially unveil the new sounds that I’ve been experimenting with over the past year, and all being well you should be hearing more from this performance in the coming weeks. Watch this space…
7. Royal Institute of British Architects Commission:
A commission by The Royal Institute of British Architects and Nick Luscombe’s Musicity project to produce an original composition using sounds from the RIBA headquarters at 66 Portland Place in Central London. This is a stereo remix of a work originally presented at Musicity’s gala event on 4th April 2017. For a project so obsessed with using buildings and acoustic spaces, where better to begin than a building built FOR architects? I particularly admired their beautiful-sounding floorboards! Special thanks once again to Nick, Meneesha Kellay and Lisa Cullen.
8. The BBC’s First Disc-Cut Report in Over 50 Years:
The first BBC report to be played live on disc for over 50 years, cut by Mike Dixon of Lathecuts.com, during his tour of the UK documenting the work of the song-writer Michael Nau. A sort of weird reverse-history in the making – and I still can’t believe we didn’t get arrested lugging all that gear around the Southbank!
9. Pierre Henry Finally Comes To Liverpool – 50 Years Late:
It was intended to be a bold and futuristic new composition to mark the inaugural mass at Liverpool’s Metropolitan Cathedral when it first appeared as a striking addition to the city’s skyline in the 1960s, but due to unforeseen circumstances The Liverpool Mass by renown French composer Pierre Henry missed its deadline. But now, to mark the Cathedral’s 50th anniversary, long running local arts venue The Bluecoat are preparing to finally bring the work back to the building that inspired it […] Robin [The Fog] went along to observe preparations and to discover a work that, five decades after its composition, still retains the shock of the new…
By no means the last word from the great man, who died a few weeks later after a career spanning seven decades and changing the course of music history numerous times. But it was incredible how thrilling and shocking this work remained when it finally got its debut performance in the venue that inspired it, only half a century late…
10. A Creak In Time (Obviously!):
Not Unlike Brian Eno Remixing György Ligeti – Electronic Sound
Image and sound alike point to some unfathomable oceanic bleakness – The Wire
A cinematic triumph of style and substance – Wallpaper* Magazine
I’ve gone on about this album quite a lot this year, I know, but I’m still tremendously proud of it – and of Steve’s magnificent film. Click here to listen to me discussing the album with Elizabeth Alker, as featured on Shawn Keaveny’s 6Music breakfast show, improbably enough. Still can’t quite remember how that happened, but I still totally owe Elizabeth a pint for this one…
Happy New Year! Hope you all had a smashing festive season and wishing you the very best for 2018. Christmas is always a very special time of year at Fog Towers as I leave the cares of the big smoke behind and head up north to the family bosom, catching up on local gossip and enjoying both home-cooked food and and endless rhetorical questions about how could I possibly have gotten the dogs that filthy along the way. On the other hand, the frequently foul Cumbrian weather also offers a green light for a yearly indulgence in one of my less admirable tendencies: drinking beer in front of repeats of both Bullseye and Knight Rider.
It’s like he’s staring right into my soul and berating all of my post-1983 life choices… pic.twitter.com/67KH6BtLXx
— Robin The Fog (@RobinTheFog) December 28, 2017
Though about as far removed from each other as can possibly be imagined, David Hasselhoff and Jim Bowen were both staples of a 1980s childhood, and the fact that there is absolutely nothing else on that I want to watch is either an indictment of the current state of British TV or merely the natural continuation of a befuddled sense of judgement instilled in me by such programming as a youth: at that tender age the sun-kissed open highways of California seemed to merge so seamlessly with the efforts of Ian and Carol from Barnsley to win a Mini Metro. However, I wouldn’t want you to think for a moment that I’ve slipped into slovenly habits, for there has been much activity afoot during the large stretches of the day when neither show was on. Firstly, there was my 2017 Best Of Mix, finished just before Christmas:
A heady brew of some of the very finest music to have crossed my threshold in the last twelve months, it’s currently riding high in the ‘Experimental Chart’ (at this stage I will take whatever accolade I’m handed) and still available above for your listening pleasure. But even these delights are small potatoes compared to the various kinds of excitement caused by transforming my parent’s dining room into a mini Radiophonic Workshop!
Pure Feedback created on Mum and Dad’s dining room table. pic.twitter.com/HrfC6TiTec
— Howlround (@Howlroundmusic) December 30, 2017
Don’t tell Mum pic.twitter.com/BcBAGLJ721
— Robin The Fog (@RobinTheFog) December 30, 2017
Don’t tell Mum, part 2 pic.twitter.com/CzR3TV7u6X
— Robin The Fog (@RobinTheFog) December 30, 2017
My experiments were messy and hugely fun, though frequently thwarted by the table having to revert to its original intended use (typically signified by arrival of actual potatoes). Nonetheless, these sessions generated a great deal of interesting new material that I’m looking forward to tinkering with further, once I’ve found a restraining mechanism as reliable as Mum’s novelty reindeer candlesticks. While such experiments have left me firmly convinced that I really must bring a 30kg suitcase full of tape machines home for all future Christmases, I should clarify that there was a very good reason they accompanied me on this particular occasion: ‘Winter Solstice Soundscapes’ at Carlisle’s Vinyl Cafe on December 21st:
I know I’ve said it before, but if you told me a few years ago that one day before too long I’d be able to buy LPs by Meredith Monk and Sun Ra and Lee Hazelwood in my old hometown just by walking into a shop (and getting a coffee and scone while I was about it), I would have shaken my head sadly and fetched you a doctor. But it’s true. And so of course when proprietor James suggested I come and play some haunting sounds to warm up winter solstice, I jumped at the chance. And when I then asked my Dad to give me and my 30kgs of equipment a lift to the venue, a twenty-mile round trip in the pouring winter rain, he jumped at the chance too!
It was a fantastic evening, with performances from Howlround and local ‘Hauntronica’ artist The Heartwood Institute, plus mulled wine and mince pies for everyone. While the crowd seemed to enjoy Howlround’s set, I must confess I was less happy – as is frustratingly common with tape performances, everything sound-checked beautifully, only for naughty old `Daphne to completely lose the plot for the entire duration of the set, foregoing her usual ‘whirling dervish’ tape delay splendour in favour of some kind of inexplicable and apparently unfixable grating electrical hum. In hindsight it would appear that powered speakers mess with her delicate little insides, bless her, though as you can see from the short Twitter clip posted above, she did appear to have regained her senses by the time she reached my parent’s dining table. I’m just hoping all this doesn’t foreshadow another expensive repair bill – I swear in my next life I’m just going to stick to mastering something inexpensive and simple, like a flute, penny-whistle or kazoo. Anyway, here’s a brief, hum-free extract from the set, combined with some faintly-trippy home-made visuals created one evening last week using a phone camera, a wine glass, and a fervent desire not to leave the sofa (Bullseye was about to start and my comfortable seat was being eyed by a muddy spaniel).
Super, smashing, great. My sincere thanks to James at The Vinyl Cafe for having me, and I implore you to visit the shop on Carlisle’s Abbey Street if you’re passing – or at least visit his website and/or Facebook page. Thanks must also go to Stephen Benson for the gig photography displayed above (follow him on Instagram, why don’t you?) and to Jonathan of The Heartwood Institute for both playing an awesome set and providing the PA. His latest LP Secret Rites has just been released this week on the mighty Polytechnic Youth label, and damn fine it is too. Why not put that Christmas money to good use and bag yourself a copy?
Yes, that is the Knight Industries Two Thousand leaping off a 200ft cliff before landing smoothly on the beach below, in complete disregard of the basic laws of physics. There’s a very good reason the show wasn’t called ‘Faintly Plausible Rider’! pic.twitter.com/MYhJLeL6hE
— Robin The Fog (@RobinTheFog) January 2, 2018